Bourbon pecan brownies

Bourbon pecan browniesI made these bourbon pecan brownies quite a while ago, now, so apologies for the brief nature of this post! I decided to make these when I was idly flicking through Dan Lepard’s excellent Short and Sweet baking recipe book and remembered that my husband had recently acquired some rather nice bourbon. Lepard says you can make these without the booze, but that’s not something I can really understand!

The brownies were pretty easy to make, especially as I ignored Lepard’s instruction to sift the flour and cocoa twice and only did it once (rebel or what?), because, you know, life’s too short. The cooking time was spot on for the perfect brownie texture – slightly crisp on top and round the edges, but delectably gooey in the middle.

Bourbon pecan brownies
I have to say, you can really taste the booze in these brownies – which is nice, because I’ve fallen foul of many a recipe involving booze where you can’t really taste the alcoholic element, which is always a shame (and a waste of good booze!). There’s a good chocolate flavour, too, especially if you use the decent dark stuff with at least 70% cocoa solids.

You can find the recipe online here, but I do urge you to check out Short and Sweet if you’re in the market for a good baking book. The bread recipes I’ve tried are excellent (I’ve made his pitta recipe many times), and the sweet bakes are all fantastic with some great flavours, and not too difficult to throw together.

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Ginger, pecan and rum brownies

Ginger, pecan and rum browniesThis is definitely not a bake for anyone trying to be even vaguely healthy at the moment. I made 20 of these ginger, pecan and rum brownies and only let myself have one – they’re so rich, but oh so good!

I suppose the flavours are a bit wintery, but we haven’t exactly had a lovely sunny summer recently, so I felt perfectly justified in making these brownies. I also hadn’t made brownies in aaaages before these.

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies
I found the recipe on BBC Food, and was instantly drawn to the combination of stem ginger, rum and dark chocolate. It’s a typical brownie recipe – melt the chocolate and a huge amount of butter together, stir into a whisked mixture of eggs and sugar, then fold in a miniscule amount of flour and the other ingredients.

I used a smaller tin than called for in the recipe, so I was prepared for these to take longer to bake than stated. I was a bit worried about overcooking them, but they turned out pretty perfectly texture-wise – phew!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies
Like I said, I only had one brownie (the rest went to work and my husband), but I’m not going to forget it in a hurry! The ginger and rum together are SO nice (and yes, I added a splash more rum than called for. What?) and the pecans add a welcome crunch. I used some dark chocolate with about 85% cocoa content, so the brownies were very chocolatey too. Yum!

Ginger, pecan and rum brownies

Frosted walnut layer cake + peanut butter cookies + Oreo brownies

Frosted walnut layer cakeNo, I didn’t go on the baking bender to end all benders in one night. I made these three recipes – frosted walnut layer cake, peanut butter cookies and Oreo brownies – over the course of the last few weeks, but haven’t had a lot of time to blog about them what with planning a wedding, organising my hen do, training for a 10K and, of course, just normal everyday life!

I thought it would help to blog about all three recipes at the same time, rather than labouring over three separate posts. And, hey, you get to drool over even more baked goods than usual!

Mary Berry’s frosted layer cake

I made this cake (pictured above) for my fiancé, who has been begging me to bake it ever since it turned up in a technical challenge on last year’s Great British Bake Off. It was fairly challenging, so I can only imagine how difficult it is without a full recipe to follow!
Frosted walnut layer cake 2
This is basically three layers of walnut sponge sandwiched with a big pile of buttercream and smothered with an even bigger pile of icing. There’s so much sugar in this recipe – be warned if your teeth tingle at the merest hint of sweetness!

The icing was quite tricky, and didn’t seem to completely set (I can’t remember from the show whether it’s supposed to, though), but I was pleased with my caramelised walnuts. I think my favourite bit of the cake was the buttercream, to be honest!

You can find the recipe on BBC Food here.

Peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies
I made these when I found myself without any baked goods in the house, which really isn’t a great situation to be in. The recipe is from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. I followed it to the letter, using spelt flour rather than the other option of wholemeal, but added a chopped up Twirl (milk chocolate fingers for the international readers out there!) at the last minute, just for the hell of it.

The cookies were gorgeously peanutty, but also ridiculously sweet! I don’t know if that’s down to the brand of peanut butter I used (think it was the ultra cheap stuff from Asda), the addition of the chocolate, or because Dan really does call for too much sugar, but just be warned! I’d tone it down next time by reducing the overall amount of sugar from 325g to about 200g.

Peanut butter cookies
The texture was rather interesting – they weren’t soft like a traditional cookie, but had more of a biscuit-like crunch, and also had distinct layers, which I assume is down to the bicarb. You can find the recipe on the Guardian website here.

Oreo brownies

Oreo brownies
Finally, I made these Oreo brownies after almost a year of a colleague asking (begging!) me to make them. I made them a few days ago for his birthday, and I think I met expectations!

The recipe is just my usual brownie recipe, with a packet of roughly chopped Oreos thrown in:

Makes 16 brownies

  • 320g dark chocolate
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g dark brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 154g packet of Oreos, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/160C/140C fan. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan or in a bowl set above a pan of simmering water. Set aside and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk the eggs until pale then add the sugars and whisk again thoroughly.
  4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir the Oreos in to coat.
  6. Add the flour and Oreo mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
  7. Pour the mix into the tin and bake for about 1 hour, checking the brownies after 40 mins in case your oven is better than mine!
  8. Once the brownies look set on top, remove them from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing them up.

Afternoon tea with GBBO’s Luis Troyano

Luis Troyano afternoon tea
You might know from some of my previous posts that I’m a massive fan of Great British Bake Off – and that I was a particular fan of finalist Luis Troyano in last year’s series.

I absolutely loved his attention to both visual detail and flavour (check out my attempt at one of his recipes), and was ever so slightly disappointed that he didn’t win. However, he’s still baking and has a book, Bake It Great, coming out in August.

I was rather delighted when he announced that he would be holding a special afternoon at the Stockport Plaza (a beautiful old cinema conveniently close to my area) to promote the book. Of course, I just had to get a ticket!

The cinema really was a lovely setting. The afternoon tea was held in an Art Deco cafe/restaurant decorated in a tasteful yet simple style – very much like what you’d expect a classy tearoom would have looked like in the 1930s.

There were quite a few people already tucking into their cakes when we got there, but it was all very relaxed and friendly. We were shown to a table, and tea and three tiers of food loveliness appeared soon after we sat down. You can’t see them in the photo above, but the bottom tier had lots of finger sandwiches – egg, cucumber and salmon.

However, it was the sweet treats we were most interested in, and which Luis himself had made in their entirety. As well as the compulsory scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, there were chocolate brownies, Bakewell cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, and blueberry cheesecake eclairs. YUM.

Carrot cake cupcake
After polishing off the sandwiches, we started with the scones, which were perfect – substantial yet extremely light. Then I moved on to the carrot cake cupcake, which was bursting with zesty orange and fruity sultanas and topped with a fantastic mascarpone buttercream. I’m so glad it was proper buttercream and not the overly sugary icing you usually get on cupcakes!

Blueberry cheesecake eclair
Then it was on to the blueberry cheesecake eclairs – choux pastry sandwiched with a cheesecake-y filling and fresh blueberries. This was so inspired – I’ve never thought of using cheesecake as a filling for eclairs, but it’s such a fantastic idea! The choux was very nicely made and not too heavy. Perfect.

Bakewell cupcake
Next, the star of the show – Bakewell cupcakes. My, these were so good! They looked pretty unassuming, but they were actually filled with delicious jam. The sponge itself was delightfully almond-y. So very good.

Bakewell cupcake
The recipe for these cupcakes will feature in Luis’s book – I know what I’m going to make as soon as I get my hands on it!

Chocolate brownie
Finally, it was time for the chocolate brownie (apologies for the blurry photo, but I was concentrating more on eating than on taking pictures!).

I was a bit worried I might not have room for everything, but going for a long run that morning seemed to increase my appetite quite a lot! I savoured every bite of this brownie – it was very chocolatey indeed, but balanced nicely against vanilla and salt, so it wasn’t too sweet and was scarily addictive.

As we ate, Luis made his way through the room and stopped to speak to everyone and answer questions, which I thought was nice of him. I asked him what was in the brownies, and my boyfriend fiancé praised the eclairs.

Luis then revealed his secret to making the perfect choux, which I can’t actually remember in its entirety now (it’ll be in his book, hopefully), but involved keeping it in the oven for as long as possible without opening the door before you’re supposed to, as that affects the bake. It was lovely talking to Luis, and nice to know that he’s every bit as approachable and kind as he seemed in the show.

All in all, we had a fantastic time and enjoyed all of the food immensely. I’m now hoping that Luis’s fellow GBBO contestant Chetna Makan has the same idea and decides to hold an event near me too…!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I’ve had a craving for something extremely chocolatey for the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d give in and bake some brownies for the first time in a while. My boyfriend had been talking about cooking something Mexican at some point, which prompted me to look for a dessert to match – and that’s when I found the recipe for these Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies.

I’ve seen a few recipes for chilli brownies before, but this one seemed unique thanks to the addition of cinnamon, which goes really well with chocolate.

As mentioned, I did want to make something *really* chocolatey, so I adapted the recipe to include more than just cocoa powder. As well as the cocoa, I threw in some chopped dark chocolate (just standard supermarket chocolate) and a little bit of the Aztec hot chocolate I got in the most recent William Curley subscription box.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies - the chocolate I used
In the original recipe, the chilli kick comes from a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I read some comments that suggested this doesn’t make the brownies spicy enough. So I thought I was well within my rights to add the Aztec hot chocolate (which has a hint of chilli) and also up the amount of cayenne pepper to half a teaspoon.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownie mix
I only thought to taste the mix after I’d transferred it to the tin, and at first I thought it still wasn’t spicy enough – so I liberally sprinkled some more cayenne pepper on top.

After I put the tin in the oven, though, I realised that I could detect a distinct burn from the bit of mix I’d tasted – which probably meant that I’d made the brownies too spicy by adding more cayenne, as I have a higher than average tolerance for chilli (I regularly complain to my mum – the curry queen – that her food isn’t hot enough!).

Oops…

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I found that I had to leave the brownies in the oven for longer than the recipe said, which is pretty standard for me when making brownies! I took them out when they still looked a bit wobbly in the middle, but I probably should have left them in for a bit longer, as the brownies in the middle were definitely a lot gooier than the ones around the edges. They were still gobbled up, though!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Gooey or not, the brownies were absolutely delicious – and not too spicy at all, in the end! The chilli kick was pretty faint for me, but everyone who tasted them also said it was just a background flavour and not too much, so that was a relief.

I’m glad I added the extra chocolate because it really did add an extra dimension, especially the chopped dark chocolate, which created little pockets of gooey loveliness throughout the brownies. The cinnamon definitely lifted these brownies above your bog standard chocolate brownies.

I would definitely make these again – but perhaps add even more cayenne next time…!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 18

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g to 100g chilli hot chocolate (I used William Curley Aztec hot chocolate)
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you’d like it spicier!)
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C. Line a 9 in x 13 in baking tin with a piece of baking parchment/greaseproof paper big enough to hang over the sides.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan without letting it come to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, hot chocolate, flour, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and baking powder to the saucepan. Stir gently until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and tip it from side to side to get the mix into all the corners. Bake for at least 20-25 minutes – if the mix still looks wobbly and liquid, leave the tin in the oven and check at 5 or 10-minute intervals until the brownies are cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with fudgy mix on it.
  6. Cool the brownies in the tin, cut them into 18 pieces and remove them by lifting the paper out of the tin.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
I came across this recipe for Ferrero Rocher brownies a few days ago, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. There’s something rather amazing about the thought of a squidgy, decadent brownie with a Ferrero Rocher in the middle! Yesterday, I decided to just go for it and make them, albeit with a little Christmassy twist – hence these chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies.

I adapted a trusty brownie recipe I use a lot to make the cake itself, adding the zest of an orange and replacing 100g of the dark chocolate with some Milka Noisette chocolate I just so happened to have in. I also threw in some chopped hazelnuts at the last minute. Then I followed the suggestion of the recipe I found and put half the mix in the tin, studded it with the Ferrero Rochers, then put the rest of the mix on top.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies, pre-topping and baking

The brownies took a while to cook – I would say about an hour overall. But they were still beautifully moist and not in the least bit dry when they came out of the oven.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
I couldn’t wait for them to cool! When they finally did, I was in chocolate heaven. The orange zest is absolutely lovely with the chocolate, and the chopped hazelnuts and decadent middle add a nice bit of texture. These really are brownies for the serious chocoholic in your life, and could also make a wonderful Christmas treat thanks to the festive orange. You could also omit the chopped hazelnuts and use a dark chocolate orange in place of some or all of the chocolate – the choice is yours!

While I’ve reserved a few of these for myself, I’m going to take the rest with me when I go to visit my boyfriend in a little while – he absolutely loves both chocolate orange and hazelnuts, so I’m thinking these will be a big hit!

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
The recipe

Makes 16 brownies

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
  • 100g hazelnut-flavoured milk chocolate (or use more dark chocolate, or orange-flavoured chocolate, or whatever you like!)
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g chopped toasted hazelnuts (optional)
  • 16 Ferrero Rocher chocolates

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/160C/140C fan. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl set above a pan of simmering water. Stir in the zest, set aside and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk the eggs until pale then add the sugar and whisk again thoroughly.
  4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the hazelnuts if using, and stir until just combined.
  6. Pour just over half of the mix into the tin, embed the Ferrero Rochers into the mix then pour over the rest of the brownie mix.
  7. Bake for about 1 hour, checking the brownies after 40 mins in case your oven is better than mine!
  8. Once the brownies look set on top, remove them from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing them up.

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
We had our office Halloween bake sale yesterday, and I was still dithering over what to make up until last weekend, when I saw these rather lovely-looking spiced pumpkin brownie pies on Sunday Brunch.

I have to admit that I do roll my eyes a little whenever I see a recipe combining two or more things that should really be separate – anyone who’s on Pinterest will know what I mean when I say something like ‘salted caramel brownie cookie cake pie with muffin buttercream’. It’s just overkill and, as much as I like a calorific snack every now and then, those kinds of recipes really do sound like a heart attack waiting to happen.

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies 7
However, I was rather taken with these pies, particularly the spiced shortcrust pastry and the pumpkin puree combined with maple syrup. The recipe was cooked on Sunday Brunch by a chocolatier, so his main focus was on the brownie topping and how to get that exactly right with the best chocolate. He also made a praline with pumpkin seeds to go with the pies, but I didn’t – which I’m rather glad about, because I found the pies time-consuming on their own!

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Spiced pastry

I started off by making the pastry the night before doing the rest of the legwork. It’s a rather rich pastry with egg yolks, so it seemed a little too ‘wet’ before I put it in the fridge. However, it was perfectly alright when I took it out of the fridge the next day. The recipe on the Channel 4 website doesn’t tell you when to put the spices in, but I just added them with the flour. I didn’t have any mace so I used ground ginger instead.

Pumpkin puree for spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Pumpkin puree

The next day, I *deep breath* hacked apart an entire pumpkin just to get 250g of flesh, roasted it, pureed it with maple syrup, reduced it in pan to get rid of the excess liquid, made the brownie mix, rolled out the pastry, cut out discs to go into a muffin tin, spooned the puree in the bottom of each pie then added the brownie mix on top. And then I baked the pies. *and exhale*

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
The pastry looks rather thick in the pictures here, but I actually ended up with enough pastry for 14 pies rather than just 12, so imagine how many pies I would have had if I’d rolled it out any thinner!

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
One thing I was surprised about was the lack of a raising agent in the brownie mix, but it was actually fine and I didn’t end up with any horribly hard brownie crusts. Phew. I used some posh chocolate with 85% cocoa solids from Asda.

Brownie mix for spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Brownie mix

I thought there was a good amount of pumpkin puree in each pie, but after baking the weight of the brownie crusts flattened the pumpkin layer considerably. I think I would make more of the pumpkin puree next time, and less of the brownie mix (I had some left over even after filling 14 pies with it – but I didn’t let it go to waste!).

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Can you see the pumpkin layer?

The baking time specified in the recipe seemed about right. I’m not particularly experienced with pies so I found it hard to tell when they were done, but I trusted that the slight browning around the edges was a good sign! I’m not sure whether they would have passed the ‘soggy bottom’ test, though!

The pies went down very well in the bake sale and I managed to sell all of the 12 pies I brought in. I’ve just tried one of the remaining ones for the first time and it was delicious, particularly the decadent brownie. I think the pumpkin could come through a little more, but the spices in the pastry are absolutely lovely.

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
I’d like to say I’ll make these again, but I have the rather pressing matter of what to do with all the leftover pumpkin I have in the fridge and I don’t think I can face going through all the different steps again any time soon… a simple loaf cake beckons!

The recipe

Adapted/corrected from this recipe on the Sunday Brunch website:

Makes 12 pies

For the spiced crust:

  • 175g salted butter, softened
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25ml water, at room temperature
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger

For the pumpkin puree:

  • 250g fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 25ml maple syrup

For the fudge brownie topping:

  • 50g butter
  • 40g golden syrup
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 140g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 35g plain flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. For the puree, place the pumpkin on a baking tray, cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes until very soft.
  2. Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, then add the yolks and beat well, then add the water mixing well.
  3. Mix the spices with the flour and add in 3 additions, taking care not to over mix.
  4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (you can make the pastry in advance and chill overnight).
  5. Blend the soft pumpkin with the maple syrup, then tip into a saucepan and cook until it reduces, around 5 minutes.
  6. For the brownie topping, melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan until smooth. Take off the heat and add the chocolate, mixing well until very smooth. Add the eggs and beat well, followed by the flour.
  7. Once the pastry is chilled, roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut into discs to line all 12 cavities in a greased muffin tin. Tip: cut small strips of greaseproof paper and place them across the middle of each cavity so that when you put the pastry disc in, the ends of the strip of paper are poking out of the top. This will make it easier to get the pies out after baking – you can simply pull the two ends of the paper to lift the pie out.
  8. Place a teaspoon of the puree into the bottom of each pastry case, then top with the brownie mix, covering the puree completely.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes (keeping the oven setting the same as when you roasted the pumpkin), or until golden-brown and set. Allow the pies to cool in the tins then turn out. When they’ve completely cooled, dust with a little icing sugar and serve.